Un repas de Noël pour les fêtes de fin d’année (A Christmas Dinner for the end of the year celebrations)…with wine. #Winophiles

The wines of Vignobles & Signature for our French Style Season Dinner

When the French #Winophiles mentioned that they were going to make a “French-Style Season” the theme for our December discussion and tasting, I was all on board.  I knew I wanted to pair these wines with authentic French holiday and winter foods, so…I went straight to my favorite Frenchman, Arnaud, to ask for suggestions.  He had a tête à tête with one of his foodie friends in France and they put together a list for me of their favorite holiday and winter foods for gatherings.  Thus began the planning for a party.  These are foods and wines that are meant to be shared.

Well, the food part began there.  The wines…ahhh…the wines were graciously sent from Vignobles & Signatures through Michèle Piron/Vinconnexion.  7 of their producers participated, and I received 3 wines.

I received the 3 wines as samples and  I was not paid for this post. The opinions expressed here are all my own.

The Wines

The wines of Vignobles & Signature for our French Style Season Dinner
The wines of Vignobles & Signature for our French Style Season Dinner

Château de Tracy 2017 Pouilly-Fumé

Château de Tracy has been run by the same family since the 14th century.  The Domaine is 33 hectares.  Soils here are limestone and flint.

This 2017 Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley comes from a vineyard overlooking the Loire.  This was a tough year with spring frost that came after budbreak and limited the crop. 

Quadratur Collioure Rouge 2015

This wine comes from Coume Del Mas in Banyuls/Collioure. This region is in Occitanies near the border with Spain.

Coume del Mas has only been around since 2001, when Philippe and Nathalie Gard created it.  They have about 15 hectares of vines mostly on the very steep slopes near Banyuls sur Mer.  Everything in the vineyard must be done by hand, you can’t get a tractor or even a horse up these steep slopes.

This wine is 50% Grenache Noir, 30% Mourvèdre and 20% Carignan.  The soil is schist. Manually harvested, the berries get a cold soak and macerate for 3-5 weeks, then spend 12 months in barrel.

I was lucky enough to correspond with Andy Cook at Coume del Mas.  I was looking for cheese pairings.  He was a bit reserved on cheese with their red wines.  They typically pair cheeses with their white wines.  He suggested something creamy to smooth out the tannins.  He also recommended that I decant the wine for two hours prior to serving (a tip that was used and I was rewarded!)

Château Haut Selve Red 2015

This is the 20th anniversary vintage of this wine.  Yep, a new vineyard in Bordeaux.  They are the only vineyard created in Bordeaux int he 20th Century.  Château Haut Selve is located in the Graves appellation, they found a property that had been well known for grapes before the phylloxera epidemic.  The land had been lying fallow for 120 years and was now overgrown with pine.

They took care clearing the trees and planting the vines. Owners Arnaud and Denis Lesgourgues brought in a talented crew to create a sustainable winery that has state of the art technology.

This wine is 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon.  It spends 3 weeks in masceration and then is aged 12 months in French Oak, one third of it new.

A few other wines

Well…3 bottles was not going to do the entire party right?  We needed bubbles to start the party.  I referred to my Cremant post from last month and picked a few white, rather than rosé versions to start the night.  Michael had really enjoyed the Levert Frères Cremant de Bourgogne so I picked up a couple bottles of that as well as of course a Cremant d’Alsace, from Lucien Albrecht.

Our friend Jill brought a bottle of Côtes de Bordeaux from Château La Grange Clinet that was 68% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc. This 2015 vintage was labeled Grande Reserve. It ferments  in stainless steel and then ages in oak for 12 months. The vineyard is sustainable.

We also needed a wine for with dessert so we went with a wine from Sauternes from Chateau Doisy-Védrines.

The menu!

So Arnaud came up with a quick list for me of suggestions that included: Oysters, smoked salmon, foie gras, escargot, La dinde aux marrons, boudin blanc, boeuf bourguignon, pot au feu, tartiflette, raclette, mont d’Or chaud and Bûche de Noel.  We narrowed down the list by time, wine pairing issues and product availability. We couldn’t find boudin blanc locally even after I had a friend with connections call around for me (Thanks Roxanne).  So…here’s what we settled on.

The Cheese platter

  • Gouda
  • Comte
  • Haymarket aged goat cheese
  • a honey goat cheese
  • an herbed goat cheese
  • smoked salmon
  • proscuitto
  • grapes
  • blackberries
  • assorted nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, filberts)
  • Lobster pate with cognac
  • Dijon mustard
  • cherry preserves
  • tomato marmalade

I’ll admit, this was for grazing and sadly we didn’t end up pairing these with the wines, just munching with the Crémant. If we had…I would expect that all of the goat cheeses would have been exceptional with the Pouilly-Fumé and the blackberries, prosciutto, gouda and compte would have played nicely with the red wines.

Butternut Squash Soup

Okay, I know this was no where on Arnaud’s list, but we needed a soup to start us out!  My french tie in for this is that I found the recipe on FrenchWomenDontGetFat.com

Butternut squash soup
Butternut squash soup

This soup went without the cream and was lovely with the Pouilly-Fumé. 

Ratatouille

Ratatouille
Ratatouille

Yes, I know…this is typically a summer dish, but it really is lovely in the fall also as a vegetable side.  It is so rich in flavor.  So this was our vegetable dish and it was delicious.

Escargot

Escargot with cheese
Escargot with cheese

Yep, that was on Arnaud’s list and I found a can at Cured & Whey (thanks again Roxanne).  I didn’t splurge for shells and I didn’t have it in my budget to buy multiple escargot pans, so I went with a South African Recipe I found which simply cooked the escargot in butter, garlic and lemon juice and then put them in a dish, covered them with mozzerella and stuck them under the broiler.  Michael has discovered that he likes escargot!

If you want to find the recipe…snails in butter on Food24

Tartiflette

Tartiflette
Tartiflette

I made two versions of this extremely decadent potatoe dish!  I had no idea what tartiflette was when Arnaud mentioned it.  Now that I have made it, I don’t know how I lived without it!

I had a friend who is Jewish and does not eat animals (with the exception of Thanksgiving), so I wanted to make a tartiflette that she could enjoy also (no one should go without tartiflette).  So I made one classic tartiflette and one with mushrooms rather than bacon. This was based on a BBC recipe for Tartiflette.

Bouef Bourguignon

Boeuf Bourguignon
Boeuf Bourguignon

This was a slow cooker recipe based on Julia Childs recipe.  It was a bit of work, but it was well worth it.

Bûche de Noël

Okay, I was going to make a Bûche de Noël.  I mean I had just watched the Great British Baking Show – Holidays! So I should be good to go!  I chickened out and visited Patisserie Manon and ordered one (they have amazing desserts)

Patisserie Manon dessert counter
Patisserie Manon dessert counter

How the cooking went down

So the party was on Saturday, so I shopped on Wednesday, and started cooking on Thursday (thank goodness I’m on Vacation!).

It began with making the Butternut Squash soup on Thursday. It will sit in the fridge and the flavors will marry.  This way it will be even happier when I reheat it in the crock pot the day of the party.

Friday I began the boeuf bourguignon and the ratatouille.  After the initial prep the boeuf spent the day in the slow cooker and then went to the fridge to become even more flavorful.  I did this before the addition of the mushrooms and wine. 

Boeuf Bourguignon ingredients
Boeuf Bourguignon ingredients

The ratatouille, I was a little concerned about. What if it got soggy as it waited a day to be reheated?  As this was a savory fall inspired ratatouille I decided it was okay.  It smelled like heaven as it cooked.

Saturday I did the tartiflettes.  Roxanne at Cured & Whey had just posted a recipe using the Le délice du Jura cheese which is a Reblochon style cheese from Jura.  I put the two tartiflettes together (one bacon, one mushroom) and then stuck them in the fridge until I was ready to bake them.  Then I prepped the escargot in the same way, ready to have the mozzerella topping added and sit under the broiler.

Before guests arrived I laid out the cheese plates.  And when we were almost ready for soup, I popped the Tartiflette in the oven, followed by the escargot.

The Pairings

This was a feast, so we were drinking the wine, eating the food and enjoying the company.  We did have a few aha moments:

One of my guests who typically avoids white wine, was smitten by the Château de Tracy Pouilly-Fumé.  And we found it went nicely with the Butternut squash soup and the Ratatouille as expected.

I was enamoured by the Quadratur.  I am terrible at decanting, I am always paniced that it will lose to much.  This wine with the Rhone grapes that I love was huge, but opened beautifully as it decanted.  It was my favorite of the night and I enjoyed it most with the boeuf bourguignon, although it was nice with the bacon tartiflette also.

My Bordeaux loving guest, stopped dead in his tracks when he tasted the Haut Selve.  He spun and looked at me and said “That’s really good!”.  Again this wine was really happy with the Bouef Bourguignon.

The Bûche de Noël, beautiful as it was got lost in the fray. I presented it to a group of people in deep conversation.  But we did pour tiny glasses of the Sauternes and have a toast before everyone dug in to the cake as well as the macarons that Jill brought.

Bûche de Noël with macarons
Bûche de Noël with macarons

The Takeaway

This was a brilliant evening filled with great wine, food and conversation.  Everything was delicious and a good time was had by all.  That really seems to me exactly what a French Style Season should be.

And….it makes for outstanding leftovers which we enjoyed with the Crémant D’Alsace the next day!

French Style Season dishes
French Style Season dishes

Join Us to chat on Twitter

There were many other French #Winophiles taking part in this French Style Season. We will be gathering on Saturday December 15th, to discuss the wines and the foods on Twitter.We hope you’ll join– 8am PT, 11 am ET, and 5pm in France— and chat with us (I know 8 am is early Pacific time, but I’ll be up for it!) It’s easy to participate: just log in to Twitter at the times mentioned and follow #Winophiles. Feel free to chime in, making sure to append #Winophiles to your tweets so we can welcome you.

Here’s a preview of what each writer will contribute to the discussion – all articles will be live on Friday or Saturday, December 14 or 15th:

12 days of Wine

Here at Crushed Grape Chronicles we are counting down the days to Christmas with wine!  Join us as we taste great wines and pair them with winemaker suggestions.  Day One is here : On the First day of Christmas my true love gave to me a Gewürvignintocloniger!

Follow all 12 days on our 12 days of wine page

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

A Sparkling Rosé by any other name…just might be a Crémant – #Winophiles

Crémant Rosé pairings

‘Tis the season for a little celebrating and nothing gets a celebration started better than bubbles. Something about how the bubble sparkle in the glass, or how they tickle your nose when you head in for a sip.

Bubbles are great for atmosphere, they set the mood. They are also perfect with those delicious salty, fatty treats we like to have around. From popcorn to caviar, they make a great match. And beyond just appetizers or snacks, they are great with a meal. The acid and bubbles clean your palate between each bite, making every bite taste as good as the first.

Now, bubbles come in many forms. There is Cava and Prosecco, sparkling wine, Champagne…and then there is Crémant.  Crémant is the topic for the French #Winophiles this month and we will be taking to twitter on Saturday November 17th at 11 am EST to discuss Crémant.  Join us by following the hashtag #Winophiles!

Crémant

What is Crémant? Well it’s bubbles made in the “methode champenoise” from outside of the Champagne region in France. (So secondary fermentation in the bottle)

The word Crémant means “Creamy”. The term was originally used for a Champagne that was slightly less sparkly, the bubbles were creamier, with a little less pressure in the bottle.

Some of the areas that you will find Crémant in France include: Crémant d’Alsace (Alsace), Crémant de Bourgogne (Burgundy), Crémant de Loire, Crémant de Limoux (Languedoc-Roussillon), Crémant de Bordeaux, Crémant du Jura, Crémant de Savoie and Crémant de Die.

One of the best things about Crémant is the variety of grapes that you might get to try in them. We were only able to easily locate Crémants from Alsace, Burgundy & the Loire.  Below is a list of these Crémant regions with the grapes that can be included in them (variety, my friends, is the spice of life!)

Crémant Regions and grape varieties allowed

Crémant d’Alsace (Alsace)

If it’s a rose, it will be 100% pinot noir, if it is not, it can include pinot blanc, pinot gris, riesling, chardonnay, auxerrois or pinot noir.  (1/2 of the Crémant in France is made here)

http://www.winesofalsace.com/wines/varieties/cremant-dalsace

Crémant de Bourgogne (Burgundy)

Most Crémants here use pinot noir and chardonnay (it is Burgundy after all), but they may also use gamay, aligoté, sacy & melon

https://www.bourgogne-wines.com/our-wines-our-terroir/the-bourgogne-winegrowing-region-and-its-appellations/cremant-de-bourgogne,2458,9253.html?&args=Y29tcF9pZD0yMjc4JmFjdGlvbj12aWV3RmljaGUmaWQ9MzAxJnw%3D

Crémant de Loire

Primarily these Crémants use chenin blanc, cabernet franc and pinot noir. But the allowed grape varieties include: chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pineaus d’aunis, and grolleau (looking some of those up!)

http://loirevalleywine.com/appellation/cremant-de-loire-touraine/

Rules for Crémant

Each of the AOCs for Crémant have individual rules but they do have a few that they all adhere to:

  • Hand Harvesting
  • Not over 100 liters of juice for 150 kg of grapes
  • Secondary fermentation in bottle
  • Finished wines cannot have a dosage (added sweetness for secondary fermentation) that is over 50g per liter of sugar
  • Age 9 months on the lees before being disgorged and held an additional 3 months before going to market

So with all these different grapes from different regions how does it affect how the wine tastes? Well, we rounded up a couple of Crémants and tasted through to see. With 3 Cremant d’Alsace, a Cremant de Loire and a Cremant de Bourgogne we had a little variety.

The Crémant Rosés

Lucien Albrecht Crémant d'Alsace Brut Rosé.

Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé.

Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé

This wine was received as a sample

This wine from Lucien Albrecht is 100% Pinot Noir and comes from the house that was one of the three founding members of the Crémant d’Alsace AOC.

Made from free run juice, this wine ages on the lees for 14-16 months.  It sits at 12% alcohol and runs around $22.

You can read more about this wine in a previous bit we did on Alsace.

 

Levert Frères Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Rosé Millésime 2013

This is one of the oldest properties in Burgundy.  You will notice the “depuis 1595” on the label.  The estate is in the Mercurey appellation in Côte Chalonnaise.

The 2013 Vintage was 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Gamay. (so while I didn’t celebrate Beaujolais day in the normal fashion…I did drink some Gamay!)  It spends 24 months on the Lees.  It too sits at 12% alcohol and runs around $18.

Deligeroy Crémant de Loire bottle shot

Deligeroy Crémant de Loire

Deligeroy Brut Rosé Crémant de Loire Cave De Vignerons de Saumur

This wine comes from a cooperative formed back in 1957 in the Loire.  They are located in the Saumur appellation on the top of the hill in Saint-Cyr-en-Bourg.

The Deligeroy Brut Rosé is 100% Cabernet Franc grown in soils that include the tufa limestone from which many of the famous Loire castles are built.  Vines here are 20-30 years old.  This wine sits 12 months in racks before disgorging.  Alcohol is 12% and it runs around $18

Tasting and pairing

For this tasting we really wanted to look at the differences in the wines.  These are rosés which means you get a bit more “grape” in them from the skin contact.  The wines are from different regions and different grape varieties, so we expected there to be significant differences.

When I poured the glasses, the color was the first thing that struck me.  The Levert Frères Crémant de Bourgogne was significantly lighter in color than the other two, that light onion skin color.  As we went on to taste, that appeared in the glass.  This wine had less skin contact and as such was lighter with less distinguishable fruit on the nose or the palate. It did however seem to have a little more acid to it.  It ended up being Michael’s favorite in the pairings.

The other two wines, were influenced by their grapes.  The Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace had red berry notes as did the Deligeroy Crémant de Loire, but the notes in the Deligeroy were a little deeper, the Cabernet Franc showing through.

Pairings

As the holiday season is here, we went with a crowd pleasing cheese platter to pair with.  We are geeky and tend to one by one, taste and pair each element to see which pairing we like best.  Below, you will see the results.

Cheese plate with vegetables

Brie, blackberries, lobster pate, cherry preserves, smoked salmon, raw vegetables, salmon spread, strawberries, almonds, cashews, prosciutto

Brie: Any double or triple crème cheese is brilliant with crémant.  I stacked a bit of the brie on a cracker and smeared a little of the cherry preserve on top and found this went really well with the Crémant d’Alsace and the Crémant de Loire with their berry notes.

Lobster Paté:  I had this lobster paté with Cognac in the cupboard and popped it out to try.  I found that the extra richness in the Crémant de Loire really stood up to the richness in the paté and made this an exceptional bite.

Strawberries:  The red berry notes in the Crémant d’Alsace really blossomed here.

Blackberries: Again paired best with the Crémant d’Alsace

Proscuitto:  This brought out the fruit in all the wines.

Smoked salmon:  This salmon was thicker cut and applewood smoked.  The smoky flavor was a bit much for most of the wines, but it paired best with the Loire.  I think had this been a slightly lighter salmon the pairing would have been better.

Raw vegetables with dip:  A suggestions from Wines of Alsace.  This is also typical holiday fare with a veggie platter, so we thought this would be a good test!  We went with a salmon dip and it was perfect with the wines.

Popcorn in a bowl

Popcorn

Popcorn: Bubbles and buttery popcorn are always a good bet.  (potato chips too!) And they are great affordable snacks to keep everybody happy.  This went well, but we also did a pairing with some white Crémant d’Alsace and found the popcorn went better there (more on that later).

Crémant Rosé and lobster tails

Crémant Rosé and lobster tails

Lobster:  Well…pink with pink and lobster with butter screams for bubbles.  This is maybe a little more decadent than snacks for a holiday party, but…when the guests have gone, treat yourself.  Here was where the lack of berry notes in the Crémant de Borgogne came in handy.  This wine really sang with the lobster.  The other wines were fine, but I found the berry notes a bit of a distraction.

Apple and cranberry tart.

Apple and cranberry tart.

We finished out our evening with apple and cranberry tarts.  I always like fruit deserts and the berry and bread notes in all three of the wines paired wonderfully here.

Hopefully you now have some ideas for things to pair with sparkling wines this holiday, whether you are curled up for a quiet evening or feeding a crowd.  And reach for a Crémant!

We also did a piece on the two beautiful Crémant d’Alsace white wines that we paired with a simple dinner the night before! You can read up on Crémant d’Alsace perfect for a country picnic (maybe in the living room).

The French #Winophiles

So there is this wonderful group of wine writers who gather monthly to discuss French Wine.  We pick a topic and we all taste and pair and write a piece and then we get up (early for me) on the 3rd Saturday of the month to discuss. This month is it Crémant and here are all the amazing pieces that the French #Winophiles have written on the subject this month!  Check them all out!

Liz Barrett from What’s In That Bottle is writing “Affordalicious Alsace: Best Bubbles for the Buck”

Jill Barth from L’Occasion will show us “A Festival of French Crémant”

Camilla Mann will talk about a tasting pairing, Lingcod, Legumes, and Domaine Mittnacht Frères Crémant d’Alsace on her blog Culinary Adventures with Cam.

Susannah Gold from avivinare.com will share her post “French Cremant – Perfect Sparklers for the Holiday Season” Susannah is also on Twitter @vignetocomm and Insta: @vignetocomms)

Martin Redmond will be “Elevating Weeknight Fare with Cremant d’Alsace” at the Enofylz Wine Blog

Nicole Ruiz Hudson’s post on SommsTable.com will be “Crémants for Going Out and Staying In”

Wendy Klik of A Day in the Life on the Farm is writing “Rustic Elegance; Fall Vegetable Soup paired with Cremant” which sounds perfect for Thanksgiving!

Jane Niemeyer will teach us “How to Pair Crémant d’Alsace and Food” at alwaysravenous.com

Payal Vora’s post at Keep the Peas will be called “Crémant d’Alsace: More Than Just A Sparkling Wine”

Lauren Walsh from The Swirling Dervish will “Add a Little Sparkle to Your Holiday with Crémant d’Alsace”.

Jeff Burrows will be pairing “Elegant Crémant de Bourgogne Served with Lobster Two Ways” at foodwineclick.com

Gwendolyn Alley from winepredator.com is going to be looking at Crémant Rose: 4 Affordable Food Friendly Beauties for #Winophiles

David Crowley from cookingchatfood.com will be discussing the “Best Food Pairings for Crémant d’Alsace”

Rupal Shankar the Syrah Queen will be giving us “Five Reasons to Drink Crémant d’Alsace this Holiday Season”

Neil will be joining us from Eat, Live, Travel, Write with a post entitled “Champagne taste but not a Champagne budget? An exploration of France’s Crémant wines”

Kat Wisnosky of Bacchus Travel and Tours, who was our fearless leader and host for the month shares with us Crémant – The Perfect Style of Wine for A Festive Meal

Don’t forget to check back with us here at Crushed Grape Chronicles for more on wines from around the world and closer to home. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Lirac – Castles, Keeps, Wolves & Divas in the Southern Rhône

 

 

I’ve written about Lirac before. The wine I tasted then was sublime and was paired with a day of exquisite movies, so you didn’t have to twist my arm to join the #Winophiles in diving deeper into these wines. If you are reading this soon enough, consider joining us on Saturday October 20th (8am Pacific, 11 am Eastern) on Twitter by following the hashtag #Winophiles as we discuss this region and it’s wines. And…if you scroll to the bottom of the post you will find more great pieces on Lirac and it’s wines from the perspective of multiple wine writers!

Lirac AOC

Lirac (pronounce it LEE rock) is in the Southern Rhône and sits west of the Rhône River. Wine grapes have been grown here since the middle ages. While they make reds, whites and rosé in the region, you will primarily find red wines made here (87%).

Map of LIrac

Lirac is in the southern Rhône across the river from the more famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape (map Courtesy of Rhône Valley Vineyards)

Lirac is the southernmost cru within the Rhône and has been an appellation since 1947. They have some of the most stringent specifications in the region. The area sits in the Gard department and is out of the way from the traffic in the Rhône Valley. Off the beaten path, and across the river from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, it has remained out of the spotlight in the Rhone and a bit of a secret.

Soils & Terroir

Galets Roulés or “pudding stones”

Galets Roulés or “pudding stones” in the vineyards of Lirac (Photo Courtesy of Rhône Valley Vineyards)

Plateaus of clay covered in Galets Roulés or “pudding stones” are where you will find the grapes for Lirac Rouge, the intense red wines of the region. Sandy soils typically grow reds for Lirac Rosé and then the scrubland is where you will find the white grape varieties for Lirac Blanc grown.

The vineyards here are set within 4 districts, or communes; Lirac, Roquemaure, Saint-Laurent-des-Arbres and Saint-Geniès-de-Comolas. The vineyards cover a total of about 1,760 acres and annual production is under 2 million bottles which is 0.5% of the total production within the Rhône Valley.

Home of the Côtes du Rhône

Lirac is the place that the “Côtes du Rhône” labeling began, with barrels in the 16th century labeled with CDR. Now you will find the bottles with an embossed logo of the region. This symbol on the bottle indicates a wine set to strict standards. In addition the new bottle strives to be environmentally friendly using recycled glass.

The Keep

The logo seems to me to pull influence from the ancient castle keep in Saint-Laurent-des-Arbres, the Tour Jacques-Deuze. The lower level of the this tower dates from the 12th century and the upper levels were added in the 14th century. As I wondered the internet researching, images of castles and keeps came up again and again.

The wines you will find are a balance of structure and strength with freshness and elegance. We also find many great stories…I haven’t gotten to the rest of that title yet have I? Read on.

The wines we tasted were provided as samples from Rhone Valley Vineyards, all opinions are our own.

Domaine Maby “Casta Diva” Lirac Blanc 2017

 

Domaine Maby Casta Diva 2017

Domaine Maby Casta Diva 2017

The Diva

Okay…here’s a wine with a story behind the name. “Casta Diva” refers to the aria in the Opera “Norma” by Vincenzo Bellini. While the opera is a tragedy, this song is Norma’s prayer for peace.

Maria Callas version is thought to be the definitive interpretation of the song.

 

Norma the Opera

The opera…well it’s an opera, the reason “soap-operas” are called “Soap-Operas” is because they are all the drama while selling soap! Here’s the synopsis: Druids are being invaded by those Romans. A Roman proconsul, fell in love with a Druid priestess and she ran off and married him and had two kids. Norma’s people ask her to help them fight the Romans. She sings the song “Casta Diva” to pray for peace so her people and her love will all be okay. Roman dude, is planning to run off with another Druid chick. Of course, the chick confesses (sort of) to Norma, that she is betraying her people by falling for a Roman dude, little do either know that it is THE Roman dude, well that is until he walks in.

Norma gets mad and calls for war with the Romans. Roman dude trashes the temple and the Druids plan to kill him, but Norma stalls. She offers him his freedom if he gives up the other chick. He says no. In desperation, she confesses her sins to her father and the Druids and offers herself as sacrifice. Dude suddenly realizes he loves her as she is about to fry and jumps on the pyre with her and the show ends as they both go up in flames. Enough drama for you?

Domaine Maby

The Maby family started as a shoemaking family in the early 19th century, with a few plots of grapes they made wine with and sold locally. Today the vineyards cover 148 acres in Côtes due Rhône, Tavel and Lirac.

And the wine…

This is the one white wine in our sampling group. A blend of 68% Clairette Blanche and 32% Viognier,

“Grapes are gently pressed and then fermented in new oak barrels with frequent bâtonnage. During an additional three to four months aging in oak, malolactic fermentation is avoided.” (information from Rhône Valley Vineyards)

Château de Montfaucon “Baron Louis” Lirac Rouge 2014

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Château de Montfaucon

The castle of Monfaucon was part of a line of fortresses on the Rhone River, but even before the castle was built, long before even the Greeks and the Romans, early prehistoric inhabitants found this site on the hill about the Rhône a refuge. The tower was built in the 11th century to guard against the Roman German Empire, and later to tax ships with goods coming down the Rhône. They added on to the castle in 1420 and it gained it’s triangular shape that remains to today. The first wines were made here in 1530. Wars in the 16th century damaged the castle and in 1880 Baron Louis restored the castle with a decidedly Scottish influence (that came from his mother). In 1995 Rodolphe de Pins took over the estate and today the estate has over 45 hectares of vines. (information from Château de Monfaucon)

The soils

The grapes for this blend grow in limestone and sandy loam.

The wine & the Castle

A tribute to the Baron Louis de Montfaucon, who restored the castle in the 19th century this is a Grenache driven blend with 50% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 15% Cinsault, 10% Carignan and 10% Mourvedre.

“all hand-harvested and destemmed. Co-fermentation lasted seven days followed by an additional two weeks of extended skin maceration. 70% of the blend was aged in oak barrels for 12 months and bottle aged for an additional eight months before release.” (information from Rhône Valley Vineyards)

La Lôyane Vielles Vignes Lirac Rouge 2016

La Lôyane Vielles Vignes Lirac Rouge 2016 bottle shot

La Lôyane Vielles Vignes Lirac Rouge 2016

The Wolves

(Okay…this is where the wolves come in.)

Domaine La Lôyane

Domaine La Lôyane is named for the region in which it is built which translated in ancient times to “territory occupied by wolves” (I am feeling all GoT on this, picturing packs of Dire Wolves roaming the vineyards).

Portrait of a gray wolf of Europe (canis lupus lupus) in the woods looking straight ahead.

 

 

The Domaine is located in the Rochefort du Gard and has vineyards there as well as Saint Laurent des Arbres and Saze. I found a lovely (translated) quote on their site.

“If we think that wine is hymn to Nature, that is wine grower’s work: master the alchemy between Soil and Plant.”

An old vine vineyard

This particular wine comes from “Les Theys” a site holding the oldest Grenache vines in all of Lirac at 150 years old. The wine is Grenache driven again with 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah. A single vineyard Lirac

“Yields are very low at 20 hl/hectare—almost half the appellation norm at 34 hl/hectare. Fermentation and aging takes place in stainless steel with a small portion of each wine is raised in their collection of their ten neutral 60 hl demi-muid barrels.” (information from Rhône Valley Vineyards)

Domaine du Castel Oualou Cuvée fût de Chêne Rouge 2013

Domaine du Castel Oualou Cuvée fût de Chêne Rouge 2013 bottleshot

Domaine du Castel Oualou Cuvée fût de Chêne Rouge 2013

First, this wine is Syrah driven and age worthy. It comes from 40 year old vines grown in clay and sand. It is 50% Syrah, 40% Grenache and 10% Mouvedre, so a fairly classic GSM, but…. “Grapes are destemmed and undergo a 25 day fermentation in temperature controlled tanks. Wine is then blended and aged for 4 months in concrete vats that are buried 16.5 feet underground. The wine is then transferred to large oak barrels for 18 months.”

In 1961 Jean-Claude Assemat’s mother Marie Pons-Mure purchased Castel Oualou after returning from Northern Africa. Jean-François took over following his father’s death in 1988. They have 52 Hectares with Domaine Castel Oualou and have two other domaines under Vignobles Assemat.

The label

Castel Oualou label

Castel Oualou label with the Castel crossed out

You will notice that the castle on the label has an “X” through it. Here’s the story:

“Jean-François’ grandmother planted selected vines – Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah and Mourvèdre – those vines peculiarly suited to the region. Then came the first harvest, the first bottling … and the first label with its fairytable castle. However, as legislation does not allow anything to appear on the label which does not actually exist, it was decided to cross out the picture of the castle.
This is how the name CASTLE OUALOU came into being, with its logo – a castle crossed out.”

(Information from http://www.chateauneuf.dk/Lirac/en/lien31.htm)

I suppose Marie Pons-Mure, might also be considered a “Diva” for not just removing the picture of the castle, but defiantly crossing it out. (Go Girl!)

Did we actually taste the wines?

Why yes, yes we did. These beautiful samples were sent our way by Rhone Valley Vineyards and we did dive in for a tasting and a little pairing.

Domaine Maby tasting and pairing

Just to recap this wine is 68% Clairette Blanche and 32% Viognier and is fermented in new oak.

I searched through tasting notes and pairing suggestions to find pairing ideas. We started with the Domaine Maby. Suggested pairings were charcuterie and grilled fish. Our season has changed and while we got to 71 degrees today, the light has changed and you can see and feel fall in the air. Grilled fish spoke to me of summer and I needed to make this dish a little warmer. I settled on making packets of cod and pototoes. A simple preparation with olive oil, butter, Lemon, sliced almonds, salt & pepper will do us for dinner. I also wanted to set up a cheese plate to taste with ahead of time. One of the tasting notes I read suggested decanting this wine as the oak was very prominant. Tasting notes mentioned: lemon rind, pear, apricot, vanila, almond, verbena, white flowers, exotic fruit, spearmint, toast and mango-guava jelly. So in anticipation I picked up a lemon, some sliced almonds, a fuji apple, and some mango-guava-passion fruit jelly. The Vin-Lirac suggestion for cheeses was a hard goat cheese. At the market asking for a hard goat cheese the Murray’s Cheese counter did not let me down and pointed me to a Cypress Grove – Midnight Moon. This is a version of the Dutch aged goat Gouda.

As the cork came out of the bottle the aromas swept into the room, hitting my nose with freshly sliced apple. This wine is LARGE when opened. I determined I would taste it immediately in all it’s glory. This Diva makes an entrance. In addition to the freshly sliced apple there is something a little more exotic and tropical. I stuck my nose in the mango-guava jelly…yep there is this bit of guava, it’s the scent of an exotic perfume on the air as a beautiful woman passes by. On my palate she was lighter than I expected, walking on point shoes across my tongue.

The wine and the fuji apple, were like to peas in a pod, mirroring each other. The cheese was salty & tangy & deep, the philosopher friend that the Diva is enamored with. They play off each other and are stunning together. I decided to decant part of this wine and sequester the rest in the bottle so we could compare the two later. We found that while the decanting took the edge off, it took more off than we would like. (Thank goodness I only decanted a little). The wine went beautifully with our fish and potato packets, the acidity cut through the potatoes and butter and the lemon zest on top highlighted the wine. I will admit that my favorite pairing bite of the night was the Midnight Moon with a bit of mango-guava-passion fruit jelly. It made the wine sing! (Sing Diva Sing!)

On to the Reds!

With the red wines, we opened them mid day to taste and then went on to pair with them in the evening with some friends. Pairing suggestions for these wines ranged from beef or lamb, to roast game or stew to grilled game, stew, pigeon or cheeses. We headed for the common denominator and went with a beef stew then put together a cheese plate with some complimentary flavors.

Our selection of cheeses was contained within semi hard cheeses and included Pecorino Romano, a Beehive Apple Smoked Walnut Cheese, Grand Queso Sole and a Beehive Promotory. We added strawberries to pair with the grenache in these blends as well as blackberries and cherries for the syrah and some blueberries and raspberries for good measure. Walnuts, pecans, honey, some tomato marmalade, summer sausage, crackers and bread rounded out our plate. And…I made a little dish of dried lavender to see if I really was finding this on the nose of the La Lôyane.

Cheese plate to pair with the red wines of Lirac

La Lôyane Vielles Vignes Lirac Rouge 2016 tasting

This was the first bottle that we opened to taste through. As a reminder, this is a 60/40 Grenache/Syrah blend and the Grenache comes from 150 yr old vines.

I loved the nose on this, getting crushed pepper and black fruit followed by cocoa and an air of saltiness, black currants and cooked blackberries, then subtle floral notes, yes…lavender with it’s pepperiness. There was a little Syrah funk that came and went and later a bit of violets snuck out. And maybe it’s just me, my brain suggesting it, but I get something ancient on the nose, and a little wild forest (I’m picturing wolves again).

The tannins on this wine hit my teeth like a fine powder. As we tasted this wine, we were having a bite of lunch (lasagna, not what I would have paired with it, but…) and the wine was lovely with our lunch. While great on it’s own (someone called it a meditation wine) it is really good with food pairings. This wine by the way runs just $16. I will admit that I was really sucked in by the depth of the nose on this wine. It was a deep dark wine with some purple to the color.

Château de Montfaucon “Baron Louis” Lirac Rouge 2014

On to our second wine. This was a blend of 55% Grenache, 15% Cinsault, 15% Syrah 10% Carignan and 5% Mourvedre.

It is a 2014 which you could tell by the rim. The color was more to the ruby tones. I got cocoa first on the nose followed by red fruit.

It reminded me of dessert, a chocolate mousse dusted with cocoa and topped with a raspberry.

As it opened up I got more floral notes and pepper after a while. This wine runs $24. And it was our friend Renae’s favorite wine of the evening.

Domaine du Castel Oualou Cuvée fût de Chêne Rouge 2013

As we opened the third wine, the first thing I got when I opened the bottle was sweet pickle relish. Perhaps a little Volatile Acid? It dissapated fairly quickly. This wine was 50% Grenach 40% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre. The palate was lighter on this wine and you could tell it was a little older by the color, and the rim. I got caramel on the palate here. I went back to the La Lôyane briefly and when I put my nose back into this wine it hit me as sweet by comparison, which I found really interesting. This wine runs $20.  This was Michael’s favorite he felt it was the most balanced of these wines.

All in all these were really wonderful wines, most especially at this price point! And they all paired well with the stew as well as the cheese plate and the company.

If you would like more information on the wines of this region visit rhone-wines.com or more specifically rhone-wines.com/en/appellation/lirac

Many of my fellow #Winophiles will have additional pairing suggestions and great information on these and other wines from Lirac and the Southern Rhone.  Check out their posts below!  And join us Saturday October 20th (9am Pacific time) for a conversation about this region and it’s wines on twitter.  Just follow #Winophiles!

Cahors – Malbec from along the winding river Lot

Three Malbecs from Cahors France

We’ve all heard of Malbec.  First thought that popped in your head?  Big bold Argentinian Malbec.  Right?  This month with the French Winophiles we are exploring Cahors, France the original home of Malbec.

History of Cahors

This region sits in the south west of France about 100 miles east of Bordeaux in the Midi-Pyranees and is divided by the Lot river that does a half a dozen or more “S” curves through the area.  The original home of Malbec, here it is often known as Côt or Auxerrois.   First planted by the Romans, the Englishmen named the wine from this area “The Black Wine of Cahors”.  It is said that if you can see your fingers through the glass, it’s not from Cahors.  At one time widely known throughout the wine world, the 100 years war and later phylloxera dampened it’s growth.

The city of Cahors from Mont Saint Cyrin along the river Lot in France

The city of Cahors from Mont Saint Cyrin along the river Lot in France

Cahors is also the name of the city at the eastern end of the area that sits on the last of those hairpin turns of the river Lot.  The Pont Valentré has become the symbol of the town.  It is a 14th-century stone arch bridge crossing the Lot River on the west side of Cahors.

The Pont Valentré in Cahors France

The Pont Valentré in Cahors France

 

The AOC and the wine region

Map of the South West of France

Cahors is located in the South West of France North of Toulouse

The AOC was founded in 1971 and produces only red wine.  The terroirs here are divided into the Vallée – the valley that runs near the river; the Coteaux – the terraces up the sides of the cliffs and the Plateau, which sits at around 980 feet and has limestone soils.  The wines of the Vallée and Coteaux tend to be more fruit forward, where as the wines from the Plateau have a bit more finesse due to the wide diurnal shifts (day to night temps) which make for slower ripening and a later harvest.

Countryside and local cuisine

The country side here is out of a storybook with villages perfect for biking, boating on the river and hot air ballooning.  It is also home to many Michelin starred chefs, due in no small part to the abundance of truffles in the region.  The annual truffle festival early each year brings people from far and near to bid on truffles from vendors walking the street. The region is also noted for chestnuts, wild mushrooms, foie gras, goose, duck and walnuts.  All of these things play beautifully with the local wine.

The wines

While I was doing that fabulous Grower Champagne tasting last month at Valley Cheese and Wine, I was thinking about this month and our Cahors tasting.  So…before I left, I picked up a bottle of Cahors and a cheese that Kristin suggested to pair with it.  We later picked up two other wines to compare, of the 3 we ended up with 3 different vintages.

 

Château du Cèdre – Cèdre Heritage 2014

Cedrè Heritage 2014 Malbec from Cahors

Cedrè Heritage 2014 Malbec from Cahors

This wine is 95% Malbec and 5% Merlot

This family estate is run by Pascal and Jean-Marc Verhaeghe.  They have 27 hectares of vienyards growing 90% Malbec with 5% each of Merlot and Tannat.  They do have a little bit of white grapes growning with a hectare of Viognier and then a little bit of Sémillon, Muscadelle and Savignon Blanc.  Vines here are between 10 and 60 years old.

Verhaeghe might not sound French to you.  Well that would be because the name is Flemish.  Charles Verhaeghe started a farm in the area in 1958.  His father Léon had left Flanders for south west France in the early 20th century. They planted some vines and added to the plots each year.  Charles bottled his first wine in 1973.  His sons Jean-Marc and Pascal now run the estate.

The vineyard was certified Organic in 2012.  The vineyard is divided into three parts.  The largest section sits on lime stone soils, it has a southwest orientation and produces wines with very fine tannins.  The other 2 plots face south.  The soil here is red sands and pebbles with clay below.  These wines have a bit more power.

Maison Georges Vigouroux

This Maison spans four generations since 1887 with Bertrand-Gabriel Vigouroux now at the helm as winemaker.  In 1971 they replanted Haute-Serre, the first vineyard replanted in Cahors after the phylloxera.  They increased the density of planting to reduce the yield and stress those grapes.  They find that this increases the delicacy of their wines.  They now own around 150 hectares of vineyards and are considered to be the premiere producers of Malbec in the region.  They have 4 wineries and produce a variety of styles of Malbec.

Wine/Agro-tourism is also a focus for Georges Vigouroux.  They have “La Table de Haute-Serre” a restaurant at the Château de Haute-Serre winery and are devoted to promoting the local products that enhance and pair perfectly with the  wine.  They do tours, workshops and cooking classes.  The Château de Mercuès is a luxury Winery Hotel in Occitanie that immerses it’s guests in a high end wine country experience.

We found 2 wines locally from this producer:

Antisto Cahors 2013

Antisto 2013 Malbec from Cahors

Antisto 2013 Malbec from Cahors

This wine from Georges Vigouroux is 100% Malbec and comes from slope vineyards in Cahors (that would be the Coteaux vineyards we spoke of above).  These are clay-limestone or gravel and silt on terraces overlooking the Lot Valley.  They list the winemaking method as short maceration and long fermentation.  This wine can age for 5-8 years.

They also do an Antisto Mendoza, the idea is to have the ability to compare Malbec from France and Argentina, done in the style of the region.

Atrium Malbec Cahors 2016

Atrium 2016 Malbec from Cahors

Atrium 2016 Malbec from Cahors

Another wine from Maison Georges Vigouroux.  Their website speaks of the name of this wine in this way

“Place of convergence in the Roman house, the atrium is also the centerpiece of castles, the forecourt of cathedrals … Another theory also suggests that the word atrium is derived from the adjective “ater”, which means “black”: a a haven of choice for Malbec.”

The grapes for this wine are again grown on hillsides.  It is a Cuvée from multiple vineyards and is aged on oak for 6 months.  This wine is a blend, of the region’s 3 main varieties, Malbec, Merlot and Tannat.

The Atrium name is also the overall name for the group of boutique wineries that highlight the wines from Southwest France.  They continue this local focus with wine/agro-tourism, promoting local products that pair perfectly with their wines.

Tasting and Pairing

When I picked up the bottle of Cèdre Heritage at Valley Cheese and Wine, I asked Kristen for a recommendation for a good cheese to pair.  She set me up with a raw cows milk cheese from Sequatchie Cove Creamery http://www.sequatchiecovecheese.com/

in Tennesee called Coppinger http://www.sequatchiecovecheese.com/index/#/candice-whitman/

This is a semi-soft washed rind cheese with a layer of decorative vegetable ash down the center.  This cheese is not a flavor bomb, rather it is comfortable, like the quiet but really interesting person sitting by the window.

In addition we picked up bleu cheese (gorgonzola), some prosciutto, sliced strawberries, fig jam, raw honey and walnuts.

Cheese platter

Cheese platter with Sequatchie Cove Creamery’s Coppinger cheese, gorgonzola, prosciutto, walnuts, fig jam, honey and strawberries

For dinner we paired beef barbeque, herbed potatoes and a salad.

Beef barbeque with herbed potatoes to pair with three Malbecs from Cahors

Beef barbeque with herbed potatoes to pair with three Malbecs from Cahors

Impressions

The wines spanned a few years and we tasted them youngest to oldest.

The 2016 Atrium had black plum and tobacco and unsurprisingly, as it was the youngest, seemed the brightest.  I really enjoyed this with the gorgonzola.

The 2014 Cèdre Heritage gave black cherry and ground cinnamon.  It had tart acid and opened up to give off more leather and barnyard.

The 2013 Antisto felt like the most complex on the nose with leather, black plum, fresh eucalyptus leaves.  It was a little less complex on the palate, but I had a hint of black olive that appeared later as it opened.  This went beautifully with the fig jam.

I will admit that all of these wines were purchased for under $20.  I enjoyed them, but didn’t have my socks blown off.  They all disappated fairly quickly on my palate.   I look forward to locating and exploring more wines from Cahors and noting the differences in wine styles and vineyard locations.  Perhaps a Malbec comparison with French and Argentinian wines is in order!

I look forward to hearing about the other Malbecs my fellow French #Winophiles tried, as well as their pairings and finding more wines from this region to search for!

The French #Winophiles

This group of writers monthly take up a French wine or region to taste, pair and discuss!  If you want to join us for the discussion, it will happen on Twitter on Saturday September 15th at 8 am Pacific Time, 11 am Eastern Standard Time.  Just jump on and follow #Winophiles!

Here are the other great pieces on Cahors!

Rob from Odd Bacchus tells the real deal on Cahors: A LOT to Love

Liz from What’s In That Bottle paints the place Red Wine & Black All Over

Wendy from A Day In The Life On The Farm tempts the crowd with Basque Chicken Stew paired with Black Wine

Payal from Keep the Peas gives us a bit of everything we want with White Wine, Red Wine, Black Wine, Cahors!

Camilla from Culinary Adventures With Camilla gets the party going with Grilled Lamb Sirloin with Cedre Heritage 2015

Rupal from Journeys Of A Syrah Queen inspires and delights with Crocus Wines – Exploring Cahors With Paul Hobbs

Jeff from Food Wine Click may be getting us in trouble with Forbidden Foods and Stinky Cahors

Jill from L’Occasion, will share Cahors: Your Favorite Wine For Fall

Break open a bottle of French Malbec and enjoy a selection of great reads!

And don’t forget to follow us at Crushed Grape Chronicles  and don’t forget, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram